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Archaeologists find Maya ceramics and mural paintings in three underwater caves in Mexico
Also, next to these materials, fragments of mural paintings were detected in different chambers of the cave. The small symmetry between their designs (anthropomorphic as well as representations of vegetables and insects that inhabit the subterranean environment), and the fact that they were elaborated with red clay, taken from inside the cave, could mean these were older than the rest of the elements found. Photo: Helena Barba. INAH-SAS.

Translated by: Cristina Perez Ayala

MEXICO CITY.- Underwater archaeologists of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH – Conaculta), recently explored three spaces, all abundant with Mayan culture materials: two semidry caves in Campeche and a cenote [A water-filled limestone sink hole] in Yucatan. The cenote stands out since it contains particularly stylish ceramic that is calculated to have been elaborated about 2,300 years ago. This is unique in its type since it’s the only one that has been found in a cenote.

To Helena Barba Meinecke, responsible for all the underwater archaeology of the Yucatan peninsula, the detailed registry of the caves and the cenote, as well as the archaeological elements found in them, confirm the speculation that these places were used for rituals in the pre Hispanic era.

Cenote San Manuel
The distinct characteristics of the pieces, located in the cenote San Miguel, make them stand out among the other discoveries. Access to this 20 meter (65.61 feet) deep body of water, is through the town well by rappel.

The divers must not be in the water longer than 20 minutes, which is why a change of divers was required. At least six hours of meticulous planning was needed to retrieve two Mayan pots, possibly dating back to 300 AD or 200 AD (during the Late Postclassic period). The cenote has an entry of about a meter in diameter.

One of the pots is globe shaped and has a braided handle. It contains an anthropomorphic face and a phytomorphic body. The other pot shows a Mayan face with a diadem detailed in a red and blue pigment.

“Up till now, there had not been such stylish ceramic elements found in the peninsula’s underwater spaces, nor had they found ceramic elements as well preserved as these. They are unique materials that could have been stolen if we had not extracted them”, said Helena Barba Meinecke, expert of the Underwater Archaeology Section (SAS) of INAH.

Huachabi Cave
The explorations of the Underwater Archaeology Atlas project, carried out during the first half of last November, continued in the semidry cave of Huachabi, Campeche, where the findings were of no less in importance.

This cave – with more than 500 meters (1640.41 feet) in length at its widest part, also has two slopes – is found inside the Miramar archaeological site, still unexplored in the Chenes region. Inside the cave, which one must rappel 20 meters (65.61 feet) to get through, there are nearly 50 spaces with offerings of distinct proportions.

Carbon samples were taken to estimated the approximate date while archaeologist Eunice Uc, investigator of the INAH Center – Yucatan, works on defining the ceramic types to provide an appropriate timeline; the context of the ceramic elements has been preliminarily supposed to date back to the Classic Mayan period (600 – 900 AD).

Also, next to these materials, fragments of mural paintings were detected in different chambers of the cave. The small symmetry between their designs (anthropomorphic as well as representations of vegetables and insects that inhabit the subterranean environment), and the fact that they were elaborated with red clay, taken from inside the cave, could mean these were older than the rest of the elements found.

Aktun aam Cave
The cave was baptized as Aktun aam because of the great quantity of violinist spiders [also known as the “brown recluse”] (Loxosceles laeta) found in its corners. The cave is also located in Campeche and it’s accessed by rappel at a 15º angle. It is possible that initiation ceremonies or purification ceremonies were performed in the cave given the disposition of the objects that were discovered. Also, several strewn materials around the cave suggest the objects were elaborated inside the cave.

Archaeologist Barba Meinecke explained that in each branch of the cavern – 200 meters (656.16 feet) -, were placed, generally in ensembles, decorated black colored pots and metates [ a stone block with a shallow concave surface, used for minor grinding], intentionally broken, and that were elaborated with the same limestone from within the cave.

National Institute of Anthropology and History | Maya | Ceramics | Helena Barba Meinecke |




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December 8, 2012

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